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Kamikaze Mortal Shogi. Send your Kamikazes on suicide missions in this Shogi variant. (9x9, Cells: 81) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Greg Strong wrote on 2011-03-26 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
This is fantastic game; one of my favorites of all time.

I love shogi, but this game even improves on the classic.  The biggest difference is not the fact that the pieces get weaker with each capture, nor is it the addition of the kamikaze.  I find the biggest difference to be the change in the promotion rules, which has profound implications...

In shogi, when you promote a pawn, you get a piece that has the fighting power of a gold general.  But, when the opponent captures it, all he gets is a pawn.  This makes promotion a terrific thing.  In this game, though, if you choose to promote it to a gold, it fights as a gold, but when the opponent captures it, he gets a silver (i.e., the gold general demoted one step.)  So promotion is double-edged.  If it's going to get captured, (and, in combat areas, pieces are captured and re-dropped a lot,) you're really just giving your opponent a more powerful piece by promoting.  For this reason, holes in the promotion zone aren't nearly as deadly as in regular shogi.

In shogi, a gold general is slightly stronger than a silver, but only slightly, and, in some situations, the silver is actually better because it's diagonal move helps it to slip through the pawns.  In this variant, I feel that unless the current situation specifically needs a gold, the silver is actually much better.  The fighting power is very similar, but when your gold gets captured, you give the opponent a silver; when your silver gets captured, he only gets a lance.  That's a pretty big difference.

Also, promoting a bishop or rook is very dangerous.  If you promote your bishop to a dragon horse, for example, you better not let it get captured, or you've handed your opponent a rook! (which can probably be promoted to a dragon king!)  When it's still a bishop, though, if it gets captured, you're only giving your opponent a gold (which can't even be promoted.)

I find that with the introduction of the kamikaze, the opening becomes intense very quickly, much more quickly than shogi.  Later in the game, though, because of the promotion change resulting in promotion being risky and holes in the promotion zone being much less significant, I find the game stays even much longer.  When a player starts losing (measured in conventional terms - he has less material) he starts to gain a strange advantage.  The opponent's 'stronger' pieces can't engage because they can't risk getting taken by a 'weaker' piece, because if that trade takes place, the player who had the weaker piece now gets a stronger piece in hand, and, even if the other player can recapture, he only gets a piece even weaker than the weaker piece already was...  This is like the 'leveling effect' described by Ralph Betza, but to a much greater extreme, leading to very intense games that are in doubt right up until the end.